Catalyze Disability Inclusion in Your Grantmaking

Attendees, including Judith Heumann, gather around a table at a meeting of the Presidents’ Council.

There are many steps to take to catalyze disability-inclusive grantmaking. This guide offer fives key strategies to start.

1. Ask the networks and collaboratives you fund which disability organizations participate and how they could strengthen that participation.

Too often disability organizations work in parallel to other nonprofits and are not part of broader coalitions and networks. Oftentimes including one or two groups with disability expertise can enrich the understanding of inequality and bridge gaps between social movements. If the network or collaborative does not yet include a disability member, support your grantee to build these relationships and explore the most strategic approach to doing so.

2. Ensure disability inclusion is a criterion for all request for proposals you develop.

By asking potential grantees about how they will include people with disabilities before extending funding, disability inclusion can be included from the start of new grantmaking and ensure that disability inclusion becomes an organic part of the funding, rather than an add‐on. It also sends an important message to potential grantees about the importance of including people with disabilities.

3. Involve people with disabilities in agenda setting done through convenings or other strategic discussions.

Similar to work with collaborations and networks, convenings offer a unique opportunity to bridge communities, facilitate learning and build relationships. Inviting speakers with disabilities to covening and other key agenda setting meetings will help ensure that the voices and priorities of people with disabilities inform mainstream field conversations as well as the analysis of strategic priorities.

4. Require events you fund to be accessible.

Accessibility helps ensure participation of people with disabilities and can also catalyze deeper conversations about participation of people with disabilities in broader programmatic efforts. Requiring accessibility at all events not only leads to substantial increases in participation of people with disabilities, but also sends an important signal. This may require additional resources but should be built into budgets just as line items such as translation might be (and not be an “extra”).

5. Discuss how grantees’ diversity, equity and inclusion efforts should consider disability in addition to and overlapping with other identity groups.

Disability is often completely absent from diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Exploring why and how grantee organizations think about disability inclusion amongst their staff, advisory boards and governance can lead to practical changes (and donor support) that strengthen disability inclusion at an institutional level. Considering disability need not diminish a focus on race, gender or other aspects of diversity – remember that identities intersect!

Looking for a checklist to help track progress and keep your accessibility and inclusion efforts going? The MacArthur Foundation 100&Change: Disability Inclusion Guidelines are a great place to begin.